When Gold Plates were paper
plates scored and bound with glue,
reformed Egyptian proudly made
the tease to prospective readers.
The stick of Joseph could jewel a pocket
or a homemade shelf
in a 1970s family room.
The spangled plates were lit
by the sun of righteousness doing
its sundial dance across the shelf,
landing on a pile of vinyl
the plates from Ephraim’s hand
rested on stained wooden planks,
in a cavity,
supported by decorative cinder blocks.
The family’s keystone
chilled against the musical sherbet
of Beach Boys lounging on
the Bee Gees crooning through
the nose, draping over
Bill Conti’s black and white
As baby boomer parents awaited
Reagan and the Millennium,
their newlywed LPs became sediment
beneath a Smurfs album,
beneath Hooked on Classics,
beneath 8-track strata. Yet,
the Gold paper Plates never slipped
away beneath the family surface.
Even when cassettes were hid up
in a snap case, tucked deeper
into the closet with each spring
cleaning, the plates remained to witness
the rise of CDs.
for millennial grandkids,
the book sits atop the shelf—
a little yellower … a bit more golden.
But what of its message?
In the streaming chaos
before Christ’s Second Coming,
may a family snack on their year’s
supply of canned stew and peaches,
while relishing a Columbus cameo
like an LP cover?
Can they cheer the Nephite warrior
coming home to What’s-Her-Name-iah,
like Rocky to Adrian? Do charismatic
Ammon and Abinadi still work
a king’s court better than white-
clad Travolta lording the disco floor?
Following paper’s suit,
do e-reader editions
reveal the “Fate of Indians”?
2500 years before
a 70s family erected their shelf,
did Nephi see vinyl
in his American vision?
Thank you for reading! Next, I invite you to read my poem The Owl and the Judas.
Image of gold cover edition of The Book of Mormon by Jake Christensen
Secondary image of vinyl records and cassettes by vesmil.
Jake, thanks for posting this.
I appreciate poetry but on my below novice level. I read this poem probably 6 times before I decided to plot the wording out with the passage of time to get a better feeling of what was going on.
I see the Book of Mormon, over time, in a pocket or on a shelf, resting, chilling, resting atop the shelf, witnessing the rise of CDs (haha, fulfilling its noble function), and sitting. Not a very active life for that book! And yet it there it is.
Reflecting on this poem and the persistence in the book’s “being”, I am reminded of one of my son’s set of scriptures, rarely or ever read. I found them in a box of things not to be thrown away in our garage years after he had moved out. All of our family has moved on from the church and yet the book remained. Making an executive decision, I tossed the book but laughed at the book’s persistence.
I loved the “Columbus cameo” and “What’s-Her-Name-iah”.
I also lived through all these time periods, starting with the cinder block and wood plank supporting the stereo in our first apartment.
Thanks again. Will look for more of your work.
Holden, thank you so much for the thoughtful reading and response. I really appreciated what you shared about your son’s book. The impulse for this poem began with emailing my mom and asking her if she still had one of the gold-covered paperbacks the Church issued when I was a little kid. At the same time, I have begun culling from my own storage as we all must do. Always interesting to consider the books that persist in our collections.